Wednesday, July 31, 2013

So Much For That - Lionel Shriver

Liked it overall.. although its a prime example of one of the formats of writing/movies that I really avoid - one in which we can see the protagonist going down a spiral.. I've always disliked the sinking feeling one gets as you see someone getting sucked into the quagmire..

A middle aged family man in America has always dreamed of 'getting away' to a place where life is simpler and the cost of living much lower, primarily on converting the famed US dollar. But just when it looks like he might just act on the dream, he's confronted with his wife's diagnosis of mesothelioma, and the reality of healthcare costs and insurance in the land of plenty. What does this do to him? To the dream? To the marriage? What is the cost of a human life? The value? How would you calculate the cost and expense and value..of living for an additional 3 months? Why are we not allowed to ask that, when the lawyers can, at settlements and divorces and what not?

Perhaps the book left a stronger impact, since one of the biggest shocks I got after coming here was the unexpected cost of a small bottle of 30 vitamins. It was quite clear that for that cost, one could get all the  fruits and nuts with those vitamins, for a month. Why then was it priced so exorbitantly, specially after a hefty insurance premium? I really don't know. Costs of research, the overhead of bureaucracy, the problems of capitalism, all weigh in, but it remains a complicated question. I've heard horror stories from UK, about the NHS, and of course having lived in India, with its own multiple healthcare options and their pros and cons, I'm not sure I'm any wiser to solutions.

At any rate, for such a gritty book, I was happy with the ending.. sometimes one doesn't need unmitigated reality all the time! 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pages from an immigrant's diary - Sudhir Jain

okish read, gets a wee bit repetitive and boring to be honest.

Its a collection of short pieces about bits of daily life from an Indian immigrant who travels around and eventually settles in Canada. It goes over the many many decades of  multiple different cultures, difficult illnesses, lesbian daughters, and of course the inevitable quotidian life narrated with a dash of humour. It looks mostly autobiographical, although it was marked down as fiction.

But more interesting than the literary merits ( or otherwise) of the book, was the author who gifted it to me on an impulse. While waiting at an airport, when I first saw the couple across the aisle, I wondered what their relationship could be. Which made an Indian looking man and a British looking woman, both past their 60s, travel together ? They seemed too familiar with each other, to be business associates.. However they seemed too considerate with each other to be a long time couple. Had they perhaps just started dating? As they dug out their scrabble boards, and I couldn't keep my eyes away from the game which I loved but hadn't played in ages, they offered to have me join in the game. And it was with some surprise that I discovered that they were married, and much longer than I would have guessed. Now that I look at it... the book hints at much that gets you there!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Things you are unlikely to hear in a good cultured indian household..

Relative/maid/random stranger to father of the girl

"Arre aap kyon kaam kar rahe hain.. ghar mein damad hai na"